Leela’s Friend by R.K. Narayan
In Leela’s Friend by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of injustice, class, acceptance, innocence, friendship and change. Taken from his Malgudi Days collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Narayan may be exploring the theme of injustice. Sidda is wrongly accused of stealing Leela’s chain and despite his plea of innocence he knows that Leela’s parents do not believe him. The only recourse that Sidda feels he has is to run away. This may be important as Narayan may be suggesting that servants and their word meant very little to those who employed servants. Without any evidence Leela’s mother and father blame Sidda for robbing the chain. Should things of being different and Sidda was not a servant the reader suspects that the same course of action (of calling the police) would not have been taken. So deep is the gap in class between Sidda and Leela’s parents that Sidda knows that he will not be believed hence his running away. Which is the only option available to Sidda. He knows that it is his word against Leela’s parents. Even though there is no proof that Sidda stole the chain.
The fact that Sidda is not believed by Leela’s parents or the police may be important as it not only suggests that the issue of class is playing a part in Leela’s arrest but social order too is playing its part. Sidda is at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to social order. He is a poor servant who in many ways is voiceless due to his circumstances. Something that is noticeable when the police bring Sidda to Leela’s parent’s home. Sidda does not say anything. He accepts that others have found him guilty and that there is nothing he can do about it. He knows that though nobody can prove it was him who took the chain. This matters very little. He will be charged by the police and he will go to prison. The rights afforded to others who are more socially mobile are not afforded to Sidda. It may also be a case that Narayan is exploring the theme of innocence. Through Leela’s youth Narayan seems able to highlight to the reader just how naive and innocent Leela is when it comes to matters of the world. She believes that Sidda is friends with the moon and that the moon is following them. If anything Sidda intrigues Leela and she becomes friendlier with him as time passes.
It is also noticeable that Leela is the only one who believes Sidda has not stolen the chain. However neither of Leela’s parents take this on board. They are adamant that Sidda is a thief. Which may be important as Narayan may be exploring the theme of identity through each characters appraisal of Sidda being a thief. If anything it is a case of mistaken identity. Sidda has proved to be an honest and hardworking employee during his time with Leela’s parents. He has never gotten into trouble and he has done everything that has been asked of him by Leela’s parents. In reality Sidda has let nobody down yet he himself has been let down by Leela’s parents and the police. It is also interesting that Leela’s mother is unable to fill the role that Sidda has left behind. Something the reader is aware of by Leela’s mother being unable to tell Leela a bedtime story. If anything Sidda has been underestimated and under appreciated by Leela’s parents. He and his work have been taken for granted.
The end of the story is also interesting as Narayan appears to be exploring the theme of change. Rather than allowing Sidda to have his job back the best that Leela’s father can do is make sure that the police do not press charges against Sidda. This may be important as Leela’s father is judging Sidda on information supplied to him by the police. According to the police Sidda is a known criminal yet he committed no crime while in Leela’s parent’s home. Rather than giving him a second chance in life. The best that Leela’s father can do is tell the police that they have found the chain. There is no sense that anybody is prepared to apologise to Sidda. Due to his background he is a marked man. Though again he is innocent of the crime that he was charged with. If anything the two people who will suffer the most in the story are Sidda and Leela. Sidda in all likelihood is trying to break free of his past and live an honest life and Leela has lost a friend who she holds very dear. A friend who has lit up her mind and fired up her imagination. Leela spent her days with Sidda and they grew close. As to what will happen Sidda is difficult to say. He will no longer be employed by Leela’s parents and he might find it difficult to find a new job without having any reference.